District Administration- August 2008 - (Page 58)
PROFESSIONAL OPINION • John Oswald The Future of Testing Addressing the effects of NCLB and resolving issues of quality and fairness EVER SINCE THE NO CHILD LEFT Behind act was passed in 2001, district administrators, teachers, policymakers and testing companies have been working to implement the law’s requirements to improve achievement so that all students are proﬁcient in state standards by 2014. The law requires the use of standardized tests to measure which students have attained proﬁciency and which students have been “left behind.” This particular requirement has created a lively debate over the role of tests and their proper use and misuse. ment gap in reading narrowed between black and white students and between low-income and middle-income students, but math scores were mixed. Overall, in many areas black and Hispanic students are still struggling to catch up to white and Asian-American students. Poverty, inadequate language skills, unsatisfactory home conditions, poor attendance—these are all barriers to student success and contributors to score diﬀerences. It’s easier to blame tests than it is to ﬁx the enduring socioeconomic and educational disparities that produce score diﬀerences. Another common misconception is that teachers today must “teach to the test,” by teaching only material that will appear on the state NCLB tests. This practice does not help students learn content standards, and students suﬀer the consequences later on in their education. On the other hand, if a teacher is teaching a curriculum based upon the state standards, and the test accurately measures the standards, then the students will get higher test scores. The system may never be perfect, but the consequences of eliminating tests come with substantial risks. These include graduating underprepared and underskilled students, having to increase the number of costly collegiate remedial programs to compensate for academic deﬁciencies, and having a lack of reliable, unbiased information on student performance. The system may never be What have been the eﬀects of NCLB on the testing industry? NCLB has certainperfect, but the consely increased the amount of testing done quences of eliminating tests at the state level. In many cases, this state testing replaced district testing, so it was come with substantial risks. not an additive to the industry. One big change was that oﬀ-the-shelf tests, such as norm-referenced tests, were replaced How are testing companies addressing by custom-developed tests designed to concerns about standardized testing? measure the state standards. This is a very The testing industry provides informaexpensive undertaking and stretched the tion to increase the public’s knowledge and understanding of standardized testbudgets of smaller states. ing through its industry associations such Some have claimed that the increase in custom-built state assessments has placed as testingfacts.org (www.testingfacts.org/ a strain on the testing industry and that whytest_how.htm) and as individual we are taxing the capacity of the industry companies. Through various mediums, to score all of those tests. This is not true. we provide answers to people with quesTesting companies have added capac- tions about what test scores mean and ity, and some of the smaller companies what they tell us about students. For example, many people mistakenly that were niche players have now become believe that score diﬀerences between larger and have vertically integrated to full-service providers. The result is more groups are an indication of an unfair or competition for state contracts, which biased test. If a test has been developed What does the future hold for the testkeeps costs to taxpayers lower. Prior to properly by a reputable testing company, ing industry? Ultimately, a lot depends NCLB, for example, Educational Testing techniques are applied to minimize test on what happens with NCLB. I believe Service did not provide state assessments bias, and score diﬀerences between groups it will be reauthorized in some form affor elementary and secondary education. are not the result of test bias. Maryland is ter this election cycle and that most states Since passage of NCLB, we have provided a good example. The recent Center on Ed- will continue to administer about the ucation Policy report found the achieve- same number of assessments as they do assessments for ten states to date. 58 August 2008 District Administration
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of District Administration- August 2008
District Administration - August 2008
8th Annual Salary Survey
Do You Know the Drill?
The Evolution of Notification Systems
How Well Does This Web Site Work?
Calendar of Events
Understanding the Times
District Administration- August 2008